President Shimon Peres is expected to conclude tonight what appears to be the speediest round in Israeli history of consultations on forming a government.

Peres held marathon meetings with the political faction leaders in the hope of making his flight to New York tonight for the 63rd United Nations General Assembly session. Before takeoff, he is expected to give Tzipi Livni, the new Kadima leader, the task of forming a government.

Livni will have four weeks to create a new coalition, after which she will be allowed to request an additional two weeks if needed. All told, she has 42 days to form the next government, a task she must complete by November 3. But Livni is hampered by the September-October holiday period, effectively leaving her only 31 days.

As outgoing prime minister, Ehud Olmert will continue to remain in his post until Livni forms a government that wins Knesset approval. If Livni manages to form a government, she may well ask for Knesset approval in the first or second week of the winter session, which begins October 27. She would then need to tackle her first task as prime minister: passing the state budget.

If Livni does not manage to form a government, the party factions will likely discuss when to hold elections and the Knesset will be dispersed.